Prison Island - known initially as Changuu Island - was uninhabited until the mid-1860s when Majid bin Salid, the first sultan of Zanzibar, sold it to Arab slave traders. At that time, Zanzibar was at the centre of slave trading in East Africa, and Stone Town was host to one of the world’s last open slave markets.
In 1891, the British Consul C. S. Smith visited Stone Town’s prison and was appalled at the squalid conditions and the ‘hot, heavy, foul air’. He suggested that a new prison should be built on Changuu Island. Acting on his recommendation, the British bought the island and they nicknamed it ‘Prison Island’.
By the time it was built, the British were worried about the plagues of cholera, yellow fever and bubonic plague that were ravaging the region. The British authorities, despite the Zanzibar government’s protests, designated Prison Island as East Africa’s main quarantine station. The prison held visitors travelling to Zanzibar for one to two weeks, and also had a medical centre for those exhibiting symptoms of yellow fever.
These days, Prison Island is a popular spot for swimming, snorkelling and sunbathing. But it is also the site of sanctuary for Aldabra tortoises - one of the largest tortoises in the world, weighing up to 200 kilos. They are also thought to be one of the longest-lived creatures in the world; it’s estimated that the oldest tortoise on Changuu is 196 years old.
An exciting mixture of nature, animals and history just a short boat ride off Zanzibar's coast.
From the port of Stone Town, a traditional dhow trip will bring you to Prison Island which is surrounded by a beautiful white beach.
After your visit, we will set sail towards the sand banks. You will explore the amazing underwater world and lay in the sun, while savouring freshly grilled seafood and fresh fruit lunch.
Do not worry, local kangas - colourful sheets - will protect you from the sun.